Book Review: Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien by Paul H. Kochler
“Tolkien was an ecologist, hater of ‘progress,’ lover of handicrafts, detester of war long before such attitudes became fashionable.”
Extraordinary literary criticism. I wish I read this book forty years ago. (Published in 1972, before many of Tolkien’s extended Middle-Earth stories, like The Silmarillion.) Though I have read most of Tolkien’s canon and many books about him, I gained many insights.
“Probably every writer making a secondary world … hopes that the peculiar qualities of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from reality or are flowing into it. The peculiar quality of ‘joy’ in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.” Tolkien
Kochler explores the story behind the stories of Tolkien. Helpful without being didactic. Many insights into Tolkien’s worldview and the development of his fictional setting. His discussion of Tolkien’s concepts of “glimpses” and “recovery” will aid all readers.
“Anyone who uses coercion in even the best of cause is using an evil means to a good end and thereby corrupting the end—and himself.”
Recommendation: before you read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings again, read this book and read Tolkien’s’ essay “On Fairy-Stories,” found in The Tolkien Reader. This book is out of print, but available. (For a certain generation a Brothers Hildebrandt cover is de rigueur for Tolkien books, not to mention the original Star Wars poster.)
“Tolkien is not hopeful about our age. The elves have left us, and we have not mourned to see them go.”
This looks great. Thank you. I’ll put it on my list. One of the masters! Sasha’s father and I read the trilogy out loud to each other. We loved it. Now that I’m writing, I’d love to see the background.
The book and the essay are on my list. Just in time for a Christmas treat! Thanks, again.